Waste & Resource Recovery

Wastewater treatment plant uses human waste biogas

Energy storage company 1414 Degrees has switched on its gas thermal energy storage system (TESS) at the Glenelg Wastewater Treatment Plant in Adelaide, which will use biogas from human waste to store and deliver cheap, renewable energy.

The company, previously known as Latent Heat Storage, began developing the technology a decade ago in partnership with Adelaide-based engineering consultancy Ammjohn and the University of Adelaide.

The technology will take biogas from the wastewater treatment plant, store it as latent heat in molten silicon at a temperature of 1,414 degrees Celsius, and then deliver it back as heat or power.

According to 1414, the technology will solve the issue of effectively storing biogas as thermal energy to produce heat and electricity on demand. A 10MWh storage unit is about the size of a 40ft shipping container.

1414 Degrees executive chairman Dr Kevin Moriarty said biogas from wastewater management to agribusiness and landfill gas was an increasingly important source of energy globally.

“This marks a pivotal phase in the commissioning process, firing the burners for the first time and heating up the thermal energy store. Importantly, we will pay for the biogas we use and sell electricity at market prices to test the revenue model,” Moriarty said.

“The wastewater management industry is watching closely, as are many other heat dependent industries looking to reduce energy costs, save jobs and lower environmental impacts.

“Renewables are about more than wind and solar. It’s time to put our vast sources of biogas to more efficient and sustainable use. Naturally occurring biogas has the potential to lower the cost and increase the stability of energy with reduced demand on fossil fuels.”

The 10MWh GAS-TESS is co-founded by the state government’s Renewable Technology Fund (RTF) and 1414 Degrees shareholders to the tune of $1.6 million. It will enable SA Water to time-shift the use of its biogas to produce electricity and heat on demand, rather than use the biogas as it is generated.

“The government-owned utility was working to reduce operational expenses to maintain stable water prices,” said Roch Cheroux, SA Water CEO.

“Time shifting of heat and electricity output from the GAS-TESS is expected to provide more control over heat flows to maximise our biogas generation and result in reduced costs of our energy requirements.”

South Australia currently leads the nation in the uptake of wind energy and rooftop solar with renewable sources, accounting for more than 50 per cent of the electricity generated in the state. The state also made global headlines in 2017 when Tesla installed the world’s biggest lithium ion battery at Neoeon’s Hornsdale Wind Farm in the state’s mid-north.

According to Dan van Holst Pellekaan, South Australian energy and mining minister, the 1414 Degrees project showed that the state continued to lead the way in terms of energy technology development.

“This new thinking is solving problems and creating opportunities as we transition to a new energy environment. It will take innovative companies like 1414 Degrees to ensure energy security,” van Holst Pellekaan continued.

1414 Degrees commissioned its first 10MWh electrically charged TESS-IND in late 2018, which was verified by international certification agency Bureau Veritas after demonstrating its initial prototype in 2016.

Moriarty added that the company had a clear vision to scale its TESS technology to gigawatt hour capacity to stabilise renewable generation.

“1414 Degrees’ energy storage system would support grid stability by feeding power back into the grid at peak times and provide heat for industrial purposes in a bid to increase reliability and reduce costs. Our progress marks another step forward,” Moriarty concluded.